Starbucks Urged to Pay for Police Training, Change Hiring Practices



SBUX 0.43%

should audit its stores for prejudice against customers, review the racial diversity of its staff and help pay for antibias training for local police, according to a report compiled by outside experts advising the coffee chain on its diversity efforts.

The report was released Monday by

Sherrilyn Ifill,

president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and

Heather McGhee,

distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos.

The pair came on as advisers to Starbucks after an incident in April when a store manager in Philadelphia called the police after two black men who hadn’t purchased anything didn’t leave the store when asked.

Ms. Ifill and Ms. McGhee urged Starbucks to revamp how it hires, trains and promotes staff, including evaluating managers on goals around “cultural competency and management of diverse teams.”

“Bluntly, some managers and even corporate leadership may not have a future with the company under the new standards,” they wrote.

A Starbucks spokeswoman said Monday in a statement that the company had a program for executives “to establish and track diversity goals” and that it routinely evaluates its “employment processes to determine if there are any barriers for minority and female partners.”

Starbucks also said it would start releasing training modules on bias later this summer, with a total of 12 set for the next year. Half of them, to be delivered via iPads, will be geared toward managers, and half toward employees. The first is set to cover “mindful decision making,” the company said, teaching participants about “being mindful of triggers and pausing to make thoughtful decisions that move beyond bias.” The company also plans to hold a conference next year for its 15,000 store managers and leaders, focused on bias and inclusiveness.

Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, the two men arrested after the Starbucks manager called the police, also had recommendations for Starbucks in the report: They want the company to develop a “customer bill of rights” that would be displayed at each cafe. They also want Starbucks to donate money toward college readiness and SAT prep programs in Philadelphia schools as well as to “an initiative to increase trust between communities and law enforcement.”

“We decided to turn what happened to us into something positive by using this moment as a call to action,” Mr. Nelson said in a statement released Monday by his attorneys. “We stand ready to work with Starbucks and other businesses that are committed to ensuring public spaces are inclusive and free from discrimination.”

The NAACP and Demos examined the company’s store manual and the handbook that Starbucks gives to workers and described the company’s policies as “confusing,” adding that “ad hoc unwritten policies” disseminated at the store level can lead to discrimination.

The report also suggested that Starbucks should train employees on when to reach out to community resources instead of the police—for example when dealing with the homeless. It encouraged the company to tally up store calls to law enforcement, suggesting that Starbucks should review stores that reach out to police five or more times in a set time period.

“Make clear in company policy that law enforcement should only be called to address criminal activity or threats to public safety,” Ms. Ifill and Ms. McGhee wrote.

The pair also want Starbucks to push for antibias training for police departments in areas close to Starbucks cafes.

After the Philadelphia incident, Starbucks created a policy opening its cafes and bathrooms to all guests, regardless of whether they buy anything. It clarified that “if a situation presents an immediate danger or threat to partner or customer safety, Starbucks partners should call 911.”

Starbucks also closed all of its more than 8,000 company-operated stores in the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 for antibias training.

Employees watched videos featuring Starbucks leaders and the hip hop artist Common, among others, and shared stories of experiencing bias in their own lives. Some workers said they found the session eye-opening, while others said it made them uncomfortable, or that they found the content lacking in substance.

Ms. Ifill and Ms. McGhee said that the antibias experts consulted while designing the Starbucks training had doubts about its impact.

“Most experts commended the company for taking on the issue, but expressed the concern that a four-hour training would not make significant change,” they wrote in the report.

Starbucks said it surveyed more than 9,000 baristas before and after the training and it found most felt “very positive about the training,” and that it increased their awareness of bias.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at [email protected]



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here